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Cuba frees dissident

HAVANA – Cuban activist Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, whose release a score of opposition members had demanded by staging a hunger strike last month, has been set free, a leading dissident told Efe today.

“They let him go yesterday afternoon,” confirmed Martha Beatriz Roque, whom Vazquez contacted when he arrived at his home in Sagua La Grande, some 350 kilometres (217 miles) east of Havana.

Cuban activist Jorge Vazquez Chaviano being arrested in March of this year.

Vazquez’s release came 22 days after a group of dissidents led by Roque began a hunger strike that lasted eight days to demand that he be set free.

The group ended its protests when the island’s Communist government informed Vazquez’s wife of his imminent release.

Vazquez, 42, was arrested in late March as he was traveling to Havana to attend the Mass presided over by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Cuba.

At that time, the dissident was under “a correctional work regimen,” although he was not incarcerated, for the alleged crime of “illicit economic activity.”

The hunger strikers received the news of Vazquez’s release as “a victory for the opposition,” while pro-government bloggers called the protest a “circus.”

Cuban state television issued a report saying that the hunger strike had been a “media show” and that the strikers had ingested food during their protest. (EFE)

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